The Relationship Between Images and Photographic Equipment

March 01, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The most valuable tool you will ever own is your brain.  It is a very complex organ that merges technical knowledge, imagination, organization, design, and life experience.  If you can quiet your racing thoughts, and clearly see what is in your viewfinder good things happen.  

My thoughts and feelings towards the tools I use to make photographs works for me.  I respect their wonderful engineering, high quality, and ease of use, and view it as an extension of my mind and hands.  At the same time, I have a healthy disrespect for the gear I use.  I value and protect my equipment.  I take excellent care of my stuff, but in the end its just a set of tools.  My priority are the images and to a lessor extent the equipment.  I would not hesitate to own the proper gear I needed, however once I own it, I separate myself from the frenzy of new improvements and model numbers.  Its been said, that Adobe Photoshop cannot make a great photograph out of a bad one.  This holds true for camera gear as well.  Expensive stuff does not guarantee great photographs.

I spend a lot of time thinking about images.  What is significant enough to want me to put a frame around it?  Spending more time thinking about making a photograph and less time thinking about gear, puts the emphasis where I want it to be.  It gets my mind focused on framing an image and creating just the composition I want. I do recommend spending time familiarizing yourself with your gear and how it all works to get the tech stuff out of the front of your mind.  Become knowledgeable enough to not think about the tech stuff. My friends and family frequently ask me how they can make better photographs.  Typically, the conversation goes in the direction of purchasing new equipment that can make a better photographs.  They make the rookie error of placing to much importance on gear.  On occasion I take them outside and each of us use the same cell phone to make a photograph.  What becomes obvious very quickly is that they need to eliminate visual clutter and frame their work for a cleaner design.  This works with any camera.  It takes a bit of desire and consistent work, but everyone can improve their photography without necessarily getting involved with a new purchase.

Henri Cartier-Bresson is known for capturing the decisive moment.  Being in the right place at the right time, being ready both equipment wise, as well as mentally alert.  He used quality equipment, however his focus was not on his tools, it was on the moment at hand.  Following are two quotes that emphasize his mindset. 

 To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.

Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.

In my photographic career I have gotten to know all types of photographers.  Some are so focused on equipment that they are a walking dictionary of model numbers and new issue gear.  Their approach to photography is from the technical side.  Others I've known are always looking and seeing.  Being with them means you are focused on  the light, texture, and composition, and those things are the topic of discussion.  People will gravitate towards the discipline that appeals to their nature.  Being true to my inner self, means that what winds up in the frame is my focus.  I find that filling my head with all the new gear the industry can come up with takes my focus off where I want it to be. Being more present, more involved in the moment right before me, and seeing deeply into my surroundings makes me more alive and aware of the world around me.  With my work I am essentially saying “here look at this, isn't this wonderful?”  After all, we only live in the present moment.  It is really all we have to work with.  We live our whole lives in the moment we are in, not in the future that is yet to unfold.  Nor in the past that is unchangeable.


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